The Secret Life of Words

"Weak"

The Secret Life of Words Review


The electro-jazz two-step that plays as the credits roll over the beginning of Isabel Coixet's The Secret Life of Words is terribly misleading, as is most of the music that is used in the film: David Byrne, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Portuguese pop. The only song that fits in fact, besides the small bursts of wind instruments and opera, is Antony and the Johnson's harrowing "Hope There's Someone," a song so morose, moody, and beautiful that when it's used, my attention strained more to it than of Coixet's images. There's a reason for that.

Josef (Tim Robbins) lies on a bed, blinded and scarred by a fire that killed his best friend on the oil rig they both worked on. Hanna (Sarah Polley), on forced vacation from her warehouse work employer, quickly takes a temporary position as his nurse, doing anything to stay in some sort of routine. She starts out isolated and completely silent but she soon befriends the men on the oil rig while tending to the charming but haunted Josef. She talks about food and jokes with Simon the chef (Javier Cámara) and talks about waves and the sea with the nervy Martin (Daniel Mays). However, she doesn't really reveal herself to anyone but Josef, and most of the film is made up of conversations between them. When it becomes obvious that Josef needs more serious work, Hanna spends a last night with him, telling him about why she is so reserved and regulated. Josef gets better and attempts to reconnect with Hanna through her counselor (Julie Christie) and sees if they might have something real between them.

In technical aspects, there is nothing wrong with the film. It's directed very well and the psychological underpinnings are explained (maybe a little too much) with a very even temperament. Jean-Claude Larrieu's cinematography shows talent and a certain delicacy but never rocks the boat enough to be noticeable. What troubles me about the film is the lack of danger, the dull romanticism of the inner corridors in the oil rig and dialogue that speaks about something, but stumbles when turning inward.

Coixet's script has the feel of a extremist soap opera, with moments of extreme discomfort (not the good kind) and never uses the small pieces of drama it sets up (the dead man's wife, the obvious attraction both Simon and Martin have for Hanna). The only thing that really works is the relationship between Hanna and Josef, and thank God for Tim Robbins and Sarah Polley, who know these characters inside and out, trapdoors and all. They both make these scenes so captivating that we hold on just for them.

Drama can be about tone, silence, and unsaid words, but it doesn't work if you don't construct characters that really matter to us, and in film, there needs to be a larger sweep to fill the space. What we are watching is a well-filmed play with sometimes insufferably trite dialogue (I nearly laughed when Robbins said "I'll learn to swim") but it's not enough to constitute a two-hour film where the world outside of the two characters is given even, if not more, time than the characters. In plain terms, it's boring, but at least the soundtrack is good.

Aka La Vida secreta de las palabras.



The Secret Life of Words

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Friday 21st October 2005

Budget: $5M

Distributed by: Strand Releasing

Production compaines: Hotshot Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 11

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Hanna, as Josef, as Simon, as Victor, as Dr. Sullitzer, as Scott, Emmanuel Idowu as Abdul, as Liam, as Martin, as Dimitri, as Wife of Josef's Friend, Reg Wilson as Dan Brown, as Inge

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.